Thursday, June 14, 2012

Guest Blog Linda Leaming: Meeting Himalayan Medicinal Plants

Linda Leaming lives in paradise. Her book MARRIED TO BHUTAN is the story of her life in one of the most magical and beautiful places on earth, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.

The caretaker's garden
I never feel more happy or alive than when I'm walking in the mountains of Bhutan. One of my favorite walks is to WangdueTse (Wang-d-SAY), a famous, old temple on the outskirts of Thimphu with giant iron statues and an ancient mud floor. It takes half a day from my house in the hills above the city, and it's a marvelous escape into another world. The hike takes me down the big hill where we live, around the bend and then up the switchback road to Sangaygang (San-GAY-gang). At Sangaygang, high above the city, I walk past the caretaker's cottage and note his nice garden, and then it's over a big mound and I'm in the woods headed to the temple.

Khempa (Tibetan Sage)

Surrounded by the forest, there's that insular, rich aroma of nature and life. Rotting plants, pine sap, urine, fresh air, flowers, and wood smoke, all blend together, and it's the smell I love most. One plant, called khempa by the Bhutanese, is gloriously making itself known on the edge of the trail this spring morning. It has a sort of pungent, musky, eucalyptus smell and is used liberally here as a medicinal plant. A spoonful of the juice helps with sinusitis, and a hot bath with an armful of its leaves will cure back pain. Bhutan in the Himalayas is the land of medicinal plants. There are over of them 500 cataloged, and many as yet unrecorded. In Thimphu we live near the Traditional Hospital, which uses many traditional herbs and plants for healing. Here's a blog post I wrote about going to the traditional hospital.


  1. Thanks for the fascinating look at khempa! It would be interesting to see how one could acquire seeds.

  2. I was told that they use it for nose bleed as well. In Nepalese they call it titapati, literally bitter leaf. And it does have a bitter smell (I meant smell, not taste because I didn't dare to taste it). Maitreyi